Vladimir Petrovich Skulachev is the chief of the Bioenergetics Department of Moscow State University, dean of the school of Bioengineering and Bioinformatics, and an Academician in the Russian Academy of Sciences, in addition to being director of the MSU Belozersky Institute of Physico-Chemical Biology. He proposed a theory of programmed aging based on evolvability in 1997. His concept, similar to the earlier proposal by Weismann, is that programmed aging assists the evolution process by freeing resources for younger and therefore more evolved members of a population.
Skulachev also suggested that gradual programmed aging, seen in most more complex animals and almost all mammals, has an evolutionary advantage over programmed sudden death seen in some animals such as salmon, octopus, and male marsupial mouse as well as many insects and plants. Unlike "acute" programmed death, gradual aging presents a challenge that can be partially overcome by a more fit individual. This increases the effective difference between a more fit and less fit individual thus aiding the evolution process.
Abstract from Skulachev's Aging is a Specific Biological Function article:
A concept postulating that aging is a specific biological function that promotes the progressive evolution of sexually reproducing species is reviewed. Death caused by aging clears the population of ancestors and frees space for progeny carrying new useful traits. Like any other important function, aging is mediated by several molecular mechanisms working simultaneously. At least three such mechanisms have been postulated thus far: 1) telomere shortening due to suppression of telomerase at early stages of embryogenesis; 2) age-related activation of a mechanism that induces the synthesis of heat shock proteins in response to denaturing stimuli; and 3) incomplete suppression of generation and scavenging of reactive oxygen species (ROS). None of these phenomena can kill the organism, but only weaken it, which becomes crucial under extreme conditions. This mechanism of age-induced death can be compensated for (within certain time limits) by several positive traits that greatly increase the evolutionary potential of species capable of performing this function. Similarly to apoptosis (programmed cell death), the programmed death of the body can be called "phenoptosis". Aging presumably belongs to the category of "soft" (extended in time and allowing a certain degree of compensation) phenoptosis, in contrast to "acute" phenoptosis; the death of salmon females immediately after spawning is a good example of the latter.
Skulachev directs the SkQ Megaproject to study the effect of plastoquinone derivitives (SkQs) in inhibiting oxidation in mitochondria, interrupting the aging program, and consequently providing treatment agents for various age-related conditions. He also conducted a Homo Sapiens Liberatus Workshop in Moscow, May 2010 to review the SkQ results and discuss aging theories. Preliminary results are exciting, especially regarding age-related diseases of the eye.
An incomplete list of Skulachev's publications on programmed aging:
Skulachev V P. Aging is a specific biological function rather than the result of a disorder in complex living systems: biochemical evidence in support of Weismann's hypothesis. Biochemistry. Biokhimiia 1997;62(11):1191-5.
Skulachev VP Programmed death phenomena: from organelle to organism. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002;959:214-37
Longo, V.D., Mitteldorf, J., Skulachev, V.P. Opinion: programmed and altruistic ageing. Nat Rev Genet. 2005 (11):866-72. Review
Skulachev V.P. Aging and the programmed death phenomena. In: Topics in Current Cenetics, ( Nystrom T. and Osiewacz H.D., Eds.) Model systems in ageing. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003; 3 191-238
Skulachev, V.P., Longo, V.D. Aging as a mitochondria-mediated atavistic program: can aging be switched off? Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Dec;1057:145-64
Longo, V.D., Mitteldorf, J., Skulachev, V.P. Opinion: programmed and altruistic ageing. Nat Rev Genet. 2005 Nov;6(11):866-72. Review.
Skulachev Vladimir P Programmed death in yeast as adaptation? FEBS letters 2002;528(1-3):23-6.
Skulachev V P. Phenoptosis: programmed death of an organism. Biochemistry. Biokhimiia 1999;64(12):1418-26.
Skulachev V P. Mitochondrial physiology and pathology; concepts of programmed death of organelles, cells and organisms. Molecular aspects of medicine 1999;20(3):139-84.
Severin Fedor F; Meer Margarita V; Smirnova Ekaterina A; Knorre Dmitry A; Skulachev Vladimir P. Natural causes of programmed death of yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Biochimica et biophysica acta 2008;1783(7):1350-3.
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